Making cents from Nick’s nonsensical application spree


A couple of weeks ago, Greg wrote about his methodical and well-prepped plan for replenishing his points fortune. A reader asked if any of the rest of us intended to publish a similar post. Truth be told, I didn’t intend to publish a similar plan mostly because I hadn’t focused on formulating one. Then, out of nowhere, I went for a ride on a pretty random app-o-rama (credit card application spree) with a much more haphazard approach than Greg’s. I’m not really recommending this as an example of a good strategy, but it was my attempt to pick up a few points and improve upon some wallet weaknesses.

A different focus than Greg

a hand holding a camera lens

Before I even get into the cards I have recently opened, I want to square away the fact that my motivations and strategy (or lack thereof) were quite different than Greg’s.

Like Greg, I have used a lot of points over the last year. We’ve gone through tons of Ultimate Rewards points and Membership Rewards points and also a healthy sum of American Airlines miles.

However, I wasn’t looking to replenish those particular fortunes with new cards right now. That’s not because I don’t love more points in the programs I use most, but rather it is because we are less concerned about replenishing those points quickly. We continue to earn Ultimate Rewards points at a good clip through office supply store sales, so even though our balances aren’t very high right now, we continue to grow them. We’ve used a ton of Membership Rewards points, but we still currently have enough for whatever our next trip may be (and between the rest of our remaining Membership Rewards points and our balance of AA miles and miles stranded in programs like Air France/KLM and Virgin Atlantic thanks to changed plans, we realistically have plenty of points for the next two or three trips at least). At this point, even though my balances have taken a large hit, any new points I add to those piles are mostly for trips that are three or four trips in the future. I’m pretty confident that I’ll continue to earn enough points top keep up with my need for those programs for the foreseeable future (and if I fall behind on collecting enough Ultimate Rewards points for my Hyatt needs, I can pivot to my Marriott free night certificates and points balance or our Hilton points, etc.

Instead, while I admit to having a very loose grip on a focal point here, my general intent was to:

  1. Strike while the iron was hot and get a good new card offer
  2. Round out my wallet with some good “everyday spend” options. We so often focus on new cards that when I hit the “in between” times (between credit card applications), I’m not always getting the return I should be. In some cases, that’s because my wife has the prime cards in her wallet and we’ve avoided adding each other as authorized users, in other cases it’s because priorities have shifted. I wanted to shore things up on everyday spend.

Here’s that (and some impulse decisions) led me.

Amex Hilton Honors Business Card

a wallet with a card in it

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Amex business cards do not count towards 5/24 status so will not hurt chances of applying for Chase cards.

$195 Annual Fee
Earning rate: ✦ 12X Hilton spend ✦ 5X on other eligible purchases (on the first $100K in purchases per calendar year, 3X thereafter). ✦ For eligible purchases made from March 28, 2024 through June 30, 2024: 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases (flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; US restaurants; US gas stations; wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service provider; US shipping purchases)
Base: 3X (1.44%)
Brand: 12X (5.76%)
Other: 5X (2.4%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Eligible purchases made through June 30, 2024 will count toward a Free Night Award after $15K spend within a calendar year and another Free Night Award after $60K spend. This benefit will no longer be available after June 30, 2024.

Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend
Noteworthy perks: ✦ Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ✦ Up to $240 in annual credits for Hilton purchases (Up to $60 per quarter) ✦ National Car Rental Executive Status ✦ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

Why I got the card: For a great bonus. Since Amex cards often have lifetime language, I wanted to grab this card while it was at a high point.

There were recently some increased offers available on Hilton credit cards. Now expired, the business card was offering both a nice hit of points and a free night certificate upon meeting the minimum spend requirement (now expired, but the offer was 150K points and a free night certificate after $4K in purchases). We talked about those offers on a podcast episode and I had noted that I didn’t have a good reason not to apply for the business card, so before the offer expired I went ahead and picked up an Amex Hilton business card.

The spend requirement for the intro bonus on this card seemed like it would be easy enough to hit. Truth be told, when I opened the card, I had intended to hit the welcome bonus with some property taxes that we ordinarily pay for a relative around this time of year. I’ve used Plastiq for those property taxes for the last several years since I have a lot of fee-free dollars and tax payments were one of the kinds of things you could pay with an Amex. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Plastiq stopped taking Amex altogether earlier this year. I’ll have to adjust plans, but I should still be able to make this spend relatively easily in three months’ time.

Since this is a business card, there really wasn’t much downside in applying for it. I didn’t time my application perfectly to make household Hilton free night certificates line up as closely as possible, but since my wife had had success in getting her Hilton free night certificate extended, I think the free night certificate(s) on this card should end up getting used together with her Aspire card certificate. Since this card also offers a free night certificate after $15K in purchases in a calendar year and the minimum spending requirement for the welcome bonus will make a dent in that, I’ll probably make an effort to hit the $15K spend this year and then we should be able to find a good use of the free night certificates in conjunction with other household certificates in early 2024. I may keep this card open and spend toward the free night certificate in future years, but we’ll see. For now the initial offer points and free night certificate should pretty easily get me more than $1,000 in value, which is a nice return on the $4K spending requirement.

Wyndham Earner Business Card

a wallet with a credit card in it

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
FM Mini Review: Excellent earning rate at gas stations and Wyndham hotels. Diamond status plus 15K annual bonus makes this card a keeper.

$95 Annual Fee
Earning rate: 8X Wyndham & gas ✦ 5X marketing, advertising, and utilities (telecommunications, cable, satellite, electric, gas, heating oil and water) ✦ 1X everywhere else
Base: 1X (0.88%)
Gas: 8X (7.04%)
Phone: 5X (4.4%)
Biz: 5X (4.4%)
Brand: 8X (7.04%)
Other: 5X (4.4%)
Card Info: Visa Signature issued by Barclays. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Noteworthy perks: 15,000 points each anniversary year ✦ Diamond status ✦ 10% discount on free night awards ✦ Cardmember discount on paid stays ✦ No foreign transaction fees

Why I got the card: To see if the 10% redemption bonus would kick in on approval day (it didn’t) and because it puts 8x gas stations in my wallet.

This card was an impulse decision if ever there was one. My wife and I were booking a Vacasa vacation rental for an upcoming trip. Neither of us had enough Wyndham Rewards points in our account to cover the entire cost of the rental. However, Greg has previously written about how he was able to make a booking using some points from his Wyndham Rewards account and some from his wife’s Wyndham Rewards account and Stephen has been able to do the same.

Wyndham Rewards Earner credit card holders get a 10% discount on award redemptions, including Vacasa vacation rentals. My wife had this card, but I didn’t. I wondered if we might get the 10% discount on the stay even if taking some points from her account and some from mine, but Stephen told me that when he and his wife did something similar, only the cardholder got 10% off on their portion of the booking.

Since my wife was a cardholder and I wasn’t, I thought it would make sense for her to initiate the call in the hopes that leading with her account number would get the 10% discount applied to the whole thing, but that was going to require some coaching on calling and I was going to have to transfer some points from Capital One to top off but I didn’t want to transfer until we were sure the property was available, etc. I quickly realized that it would be far easier if I could call. So, on a whim, I decided I’d apply for the Wyndham Rewards Earner Business card, wondering if I’d qualify for the 10% discount the same business day that I got approved.

Based on recent family experience and a couple of anecdotes from friends, I decided to apply for the card as a sole proprietor rather than under my LLC. I thought that the odds of approval may be higher as a sole prop and the odds of a document request were possibly lower (and the ease of supplying docs for a sole prop greater). The good news is that I was instantly approved.

a close-up of a credit card

The bad news is that I can confirm that the 10% cardholder discount does not apply right away. I called to book that Vacasa vacation rental an hour or two after being approved and they didn’t see the discount on my account. I didn’t want to wait because the stay was coming up soon and we had our hearts set on a specific place, so I went ahead and booked.

As I previously mentioned, we had to transfer some points from Capital One to top off (the points transfer was instant).

In order to use points from each of our respective Wyndham Rewards accounts, We had to redeem full nights from each person’s account — i.e. one night from mine and three nights from my wife’s account or two nights from each account, etc (not 1.5 and 2.5 nights). One interesting note: My wife never even had to get on the call — I was able to do all of the security verification without her needing to participate at all. I wouldn’t count on that always being the case, but if you have a hesitant P2, it could be useful.

Of course, had I waited 24hrs, I could have saved some points. The day after getting approved, I saw the discount on award nights when doing searches at (while logged in). I’m sure I would have been able to get the 10% discount on our Vacasa rental if I’d waited until a day after my instant approval to call and book.

a close-up of a sign

Oh well — with 8x at gas stations on this card, it won’t take me long to make back those extra points I could have kept with the discount.

I may end up moving that property tax plan over to this card to meet the initial bonus, but I anticipate that gas station spend over the next year will make up most of the $10K requirement within the first 12 months to meet the full bonus terms.

My one minor disappointment here is that I’ve long been matching back and forth between Wyndham and Caesars without the credit card. While some have been told that they could only match from Wyndham to Caesars if their Wyndham status came from a credit card, my Wyndham status originated with a match from Hilton in pre-pandemic days and I’ve matched to Caesars and then back to Wyndham each year without issue. I would have liked to have seen how long I could continue that run. That said, now that I have this credit card, the matches should be easy.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

a wallet with a card in it

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)
FM Mini Review: With points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel, this card offers an excellent signup bonus. For ongoing use, this card is a winner for those who spend a lot on mobile payments (at 3X, rewards are worth 4.5%) Click here for our complete card review

$400 Annual Fee
Earning rate: 5x prepaid hotel & car rental through Altitude Rewards Center ✦ 3X travel and mobile wallet payments
Base: 1X (1.5%)
Travel: 3X (4.5%)
Shop: 3X (4.5%)
Other: 5X (7.5%)
Card Info: Visa Infinite issued by USB. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Noteworthy perks: $325 in travel/dining credits per membership year ✦ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ✦ Real Time Mobile Rewards (redeem points at full value at time of purchase) ✦ Priority Pass Select airport lounge access (8 per year) ✦ Primary car rental coverage ✦ No foreign transaction fees ✦ Free authorized user cards

Why I got this card: An effective 4.5% back everywhere if you use mobile wallet and redeem rewards for the right types of purchases makes for a fantastic return on a lot of spend. I also had an easy opportunity to trigger the annual travel credit, welcome bonus, and a category bonus all in one shot. This is now my default Google Pay card.

I finally caved on this card. I’ve held out for a long time because I just didn’t feel like I spent enough money in-person for the mobile wallet bonus to matter much. However, as time goes on, my wife ends up spending a fair amount on in-person transactions and while she loves to play the game (and will buy gift cards at Staples all day long), she tends to not think so much about which card to use in person apart from the Gold card at supermarkets.

Truth be told, it’s not just her, it’s me, too. I don’t always have the “right” card on me for a particular purchase, but I always have my phone. Since the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve earns 3x on mobile wallet purchases like Google Pay (which we’d use), Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay, and points can be used at a value of 1.5c per point on many types of travel purchases via Real Time Mobile Rewards, this card turns into what feels like a 4.5% cash back card any time you can pay with a mobile wallet. It’s a great card for Costco shoppers to have, but we don’t have a Costco nearby. Still, we run into enough situations these days where we would be better off earning 4.5% back than 1.5 or 2 transferable points per dollar spent that it was time to get this card. Read more about the card in our U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve guide.

We are currently on a trip where I’m sure there will be plenty of mobile wallet opportunities, so I figured this was a great time to get this card get both my wife and I more accustomed to using our phones or Pixel watches to pay. Ironically, there is no way to add this card to a mobile wallet instantly upon approval as one can with some other issuers. You must first wait until the physical card arrives and the card is activated. That’s no big deal since they rush ship it by default.

Beyond the mobile wallet play, I got this card right now because we are taking another cruise soon. The Altitude Reserve carries a $400 annual fee, but it comes with $325 in annual automatic statement credits for travel and dining purchases. While my cruise is a “free” cruise, I’ll still have to pay for gratuities. Furthermore, it is often possible to load a slot machine and charge it to your onboard account. It’ll be easy to use my $325 travel credit while also meeting the minimum spending requirement. Since the card also earns 3x on travel, the cruise should present an easy opportunity to meet the minimum spending requirements, earn the $325 in annual statement credits, and also earn 3x (which feels like 4.5% back since I’ll likely redeem all of my points through Real Time Mobile Rewards.

Approval for this card was not instant. I’ve read that U.S. Bank approvals sometimes take several days. In my case, it was about 4 hours before I received the approval email. Oddly, it didn’t actually say I was approved but rather the subject line said “Get more from your new Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card with the U.S. Bank Mobile App”. The email congratulated me on my new card, but it didn’t use the word “approved” anywhere, which seemed weird to me, but it was the result I wanted, anyway.

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards

Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)

No Annual Fee
Base: 1.5X (1.5%)
Card Info: Visa Signature issued by BOA. This card imposes foreign transaction fees.
Noteworthy perks: Up to 75% bonus for Preferred Rewards banking customers

Why I got this card: With Platinum Honors status, this card becomes a 2.625% cash back card everywhere, which is an easy catch-all for times when mobile wallet isn’t possible.

This last application is illogical, but it was a way to achieve my goal and keep the household peace.

The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card earns 1.5% cashback everywhere. However, if you have Preferred Rewards status with Bank of America, you could earn up to 75% more — which means that this card can earn as much as 2.625% cash back everywhere. In situations where you can’t use mobile wallet, that’s a terrific return on everyday spend. My wife and I moved our IRAs to Merrill Edge years ago (the self-directed arm of Merrill, with no advisement fees) for the Preferred Rewards program. She has had the Bank of America Premium Rewards card for years and has often used it as an “everywhere else” card.

The reason I say that my application for the Unlimited Cash Rewards card was illogical is because it would have made more sense for me to apply for my own Premium Rewards card. That card offers the same 1.5% base earnings (which also boost to 2.625% back with top-tier Platinum Honors status), but the card offers a much better welcome bonus of 60,000 points (redeemable for $600 in cash back) than the 20,000 points ($200 cash back) bonus on the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. It would have made far more sense to apply for the Premium Rewards card for a much better welcome bonus.

Why didn’t I do that? The answer is two-fold (not necessarily good, there are just two parts).

First, as you can imagine, my wife and I have a lot of credit cards that levy annual fees. We keep some of those cards for the ongoing benefits like free night certificates or elite perks or boosts. In some cases, having a particular card provides the chance to generate referral points. And in other cases, it is just more convenient for me, as a blogger, to have a card in order to be able to answer a question about it or experiment with card features and benefits. For instance, I have often said that we don’t really have a good reason to keep a Chase Sapphire Reserve card in my household, but yet we continue to pay the $550 annual fee on one for convenience. If I write a post about a great business class airfare sale and I want to show how you could use X number of points to book the flight if you have the Sapphire Reserve card, it helps for me to have the card (at least in my household) to get that screen shot.

Between consumer and business Platinum cards, Sapphire Reserve and Ritz cards, and the many other more typical cards we have, we pay a good deal in annual fees. These days, when we talk about adding a new card, my wife’s first question is “What is the annual fee?”. I knew that the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s $0 annual fee would be met with no resistance, whereas the $95 annual fee on the Premium Rewards card would be a discussion point (though since the card gets $100 in annual travel reimbursements, it really doesn’t feel like a card with much of an annual fee). Keeping the peace with Player 2 is an important part of playing the game. In my case, I am incredibly fortunate that my Player 2 is willing to go to Staples to get gift cards at 5x and then take care of those gift cards and many of the other shenanigans of the game, so sacrificing a little welcome bonus in order to put a solid “everywhere else” card in my wallet was a trade that I could live with.

The secondary piece of the puzzle is that, if you’re following along with the math, the cards above have committed me to a fair amount of minimum spending requirements: I’ll need to spend $4,000 on the Hilton business card, another $3,000 in the first 90 days on the Wyndham Earner Business card (and then $10K in the first year to unlock the full bonus), $4,500 on the Altitude Reserve card, and $1,000 on the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. That’s a total of at least $12.5K in the next 3 months. If I also intend to meet $15K spend on the Hilton Business card for a free night certificate this year, that’s another $11K in spend by the end of the year — and then I’ll have $10K left to go on the Wyndham Earner Business card to max out the spending requirement there. While we are pretty good with techniques to increase credit card spend and get most of it back, that’s still a lot of spend to keep organized. Yes, the Premium Rewards card would have offered another $400 in welcome bonus for an additional $3K in spending requirements, but I decided to keep it simple. I can always get the Premium Rewards card some other time.

Bottom line

The plan above appears haphazard. There isn’t a clear linear strategy going on in terms of which cards I recently picked up. In my case, the strategy was less about rebuilding the points I’ve used and more about refining the contents of my actual wallet. The Hilton card fulfilled the desire to strike while the iron was hot on a good bonus, but each of the other cards filled a gap in my wallet. Sure, my wife previously had the Wyndham Business card, but now we both carry an 8x gas card (and since the card comes with points easily worth more than the annual fee each year, it feels like a win). Yes, my wife already had 2.625% back everywhere, but now we’ll pick up a small welcome bonus with a second card. And we’ll finally get in the rhythm of Google Pay for far above average return on other in-person expenses with the Altitude Reserve. These cards are part of a long-term strategy that we were overdue on addressing. I’m excited to plug some of those holes and earn rewards while doing so. My haul won’t compare to Greg’s today, but over the long run I should generate significant value with these pieces added to my wallet puzzle – thereby making a lot of cents out of what might appear to be a nonsensical application run.

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This is why you guys are the blog of integrity. Barely anyone mentions the US Bank Altitude Reserve because it doesn’t pay an affiliate fee. Seriously considering this card as I also find myself using Apple Pay plus it gives an option to wipe out expensive car rentals and cash stays at hotels where I can still earn rewards.

Lea T

Love the “Comically small” credit limit!!


Can you cancel and rebook the Vacasa rental now that you have the discount?


Ah, makes sense. Thanks.


I love my Altitude, between Costco and Target it gets used regularly. It’s our go to card for a rental car cost purchase eraser.


Does the Wyndham Earner get 8x at Costco Gas stations? At a $0.08 valuation of a Wyndham point that would make it quite a bit better than the Citi Costco card ($0.04).




Wyndham Earner Biz does for me


Thanks. I did mean the Biz card.

Paul B

Why did you choose the Wyndham CC over the Choice Privileges Select CC? Choice has a bigger initial bonus, lower overall initial spend, 30,000 points each year, instead of 15,000 points and Choice has more bonus categories.


On the Wyndham Biz card, shouldn’t the spending requirement in the first 12 months for the remaining bonus of additional 25k points be $7000?? I thought since you’d spend $3000 in 90 days, you’d only need to spend $7000 more in the next 9 months to spend $10k in the first 12 months. Otherwise, getting the full 75k points requires spending $13,000 ($3k in 90 days + $10k in the subsequent 9-ish months). I hope I’m correct because I already have to charge aggressively.

Btw, it took me 2 months to have the card in my hand after applying, so congrats!


Hi Nick,

Congrats on your approvals! Would you like to share how many Hard Inquiries and Account Opened in the past 6 months and also the past year before you approved for Wyndham Business Earner please? Also how many Barclays Cards you have already before approval? I am also eyeing on Wyndham Business but Barclays is so stingy on approval.


Buddy M.

I applied yesterday for Citi Premier card and got instantly denied even though I have great credit and open, active accounts with Citibank. I found and called the reconsideration line phone number and the rep who answered said that Citibank wants me to wait until I receive the explanation letter in the mail before calling them and asking them to reconsider the application. I’ve never heard of this before and I don’t know what’s going on. Have you ever heard of this before?

miles ahead

I am curious. If you have so much Min spend to meet sub for US Bank ALt, Hilton Bus, Wyndham Bus., why would you need BofA card for everyday spend NOW. Why not wait, seems you would use other cards to help meet min spend on those “everyday” non bonus spend purchases, no?!?


He likely just does Manufactured Spend to meet his min spend, so it doesnt matter much either way

Mary Jane

Nick, can you transfer any of these miles to other programs? I know you said about the outsized value of earning them but other than using it for travel where you can redeem points for 1.5, what are the redemption options?


Maybe next post, is how to meet those min. spend.


Wait til those kids of his go to college. Hooooooo!!!!


Hardly a day goes by we don’t use the usbank altitude reserve for everyday spend.


Same here. More and more apps and websites accept ApplePay, not just in-person merchants, so it’s really easy to use this CC everyday.


Nick, do you have an existing relationship with US Bank already? I love the idea of this card for the 4.5 % cash back rate. That’s like getting 9 points per dollar return on Hilton or IHG if you wanted to, but also the ability to redeem for free flights or nights while also earning miles or points in the process really makes me question whether is should prioritize this type of card for everyday spend over, say, Venture X, CSP, and Citi Premier.


There is no longer a need to be an existing customer of us bank in order to get the altitude reserve


Also most people will ask, do I have a PP restaurant card? i think you’re covered, but altitude is my only recourse (4x per year)

Oh – and the switch to covering restaurants as well as travel seems permanent for altitude?


The Altitude Reserve comes with 4 free individual visits and 4 free individual guest visits to PP restaurants per card member year


Can confirm the restaurant use – twice last week. That said, every time I try it, the restaurant people say, umm, US Bank? Uhh… And I say “yes, I’ve done this before, trust me.” Given that they’ve consistently kicked in 10K points at renewal (upon request), it’s a keeper for us.

One further thought. Even though a travel charge would be covered by the $325 credit, you can still use your points via text at 1.5 cpp. So you can effectively double-cover those charges. So then you end up with a negative balance – and you can then use that $325 credit for anything you like. Personally, we use this card most for taxis and ubers.


Can also confirm restaurants and getting 10k at renewal each year.


The 325 credit is for travel and dining.


Right – but if you use RTR to redeem points for travel, then you end up with a $10 credit from the $325 and also a $10 credit from your points – leaving you at -10. Then you can spend $10 on whatever you like and it will be canceled out.


Yep, though of course you have to have earned enough points to do that first. Doesn’t work so well for brand new card holders!